Excuses limited for late death benefit payments


The ATO will only recognise limited reasons offered by trustees as an acceptable excuse for not paying a death benefit within the standard timeframe.



A technical manager has warned SMSF trustees the ATO will not accept certain circumstances as a way of explaining why a late death benefit payment was not made within a timeframe that has satisfied the “as soon as practicable” requirement.

Speaking during a recent technical webinar, SuperConcepts executive manager SMSF technical support Nicholas Ali noted trustees have, by accepted standards, approximately six months to payout a death benefit and detailed some common unacceptable reasons as to why this timeframe was not met.

For example, Ali said the ATO would not consider delaying a death benefit payment to get the best market price for an asset as a valid excuse. To this end he predicted in these circumstances the regulator would argue the payment could have been made in-specie to the beneficiary.

Not having sufficient cash in the fund is another reason the ATO would find unacceptable for not paying a death benefit as soon as practicable, Ali added.

“The ATO would say ‘Well, you as trustee have an obligation under the superannuation covenants to make sure that the fund has an investment strategy and that investment strategy would have to make sure that the fund had liquidity for things like paying out death benefits’”.

Ali also identified the personal issues of trustees as being an insufficient reason for not making a death benefit payment on time.

“There’s a private binding ruling that talks about this particular situation…and in the private binding ruling they were legitimate and serious personal issues, but the tax office said no,” he revealed.

“[It said] you as the trustee of a fund, that’s mutually exclusive to what’s going on in your personal life.

“So having personal issues and not being able to administer the fund correctly is in breach of your trustee obligations. That is not an acceptable delay.”

In contrast, Ali acknowledge some situations that present trustees with a legitimate reason for paying the benefit late. These include having to seek professional financial advice before executing the payout, having to determine the validity of a binding death benefit nomination, or not being able to physically locate the beneficiaries.


Tia Thomas
January 14, 2022


More Articles


Deciding on your retirement funding options comes down to personal choice. . If you’re close to...

Read full article

The Deadliest pandemics in History

Check out the Deadliest pandemics in...

Read full article

Middle-to-higher incomes boosting SMSF growth

The SMSF sector experienced healthy growth over the March quarter, with men and women on middle-to-higher...

Read full article

The superannuation changes from 1 July

The super changes on the way from the start of the 2024-25 financial year. . A number of...

Read full article

Investment and economic outlook, May 2024

Region-by-region economic outlook and latest forecasts for investment returns. . For the last...

Read full article

Downsizer contributions can be time critical

With the expansion of the downsizer contribution, the timing of when it is used can affect how to use...

Read full article

Deeming freeze a win for Age Pensioners

Why the decision to keep deeming rates on hold may be a window for interest rates.   . In...

Read full article

Plan now to take advantage of stage 3 tax cuts

With the stage three tax cuts set to be implemented in around six weeks, opportunities for tax-saving...

Read full article

Sofie Korac is an Authorised Representative (No. 400164) of Prudentia Financial Planning Pty Ltd, AFSL 544118 and a member of the Association of Financial Advisers.

Financial Advice Sydney and the North Shore Office based in Gordon NSW

Financial Services Guide - Disclaimer & Privacy Policy